It’s Not All Mary Poppins

And my options would be?

“You know,” the middle-aged woman huffing past me on the sidewalk scolds, “you really shouldn’t have small children so close to the street.”

I look down at Timmy and William, the two sweet four-year-olds with me, each holding on to one hand as we walk on the sidewalk on the the (admittedly busy) bridge.

They are holding my hands. Which, yes, puts one of them on the outside, closer to the traffic. Which, yes, effectively blocks the sidewalk (which is why I was casting glances over my shoulder, and which enabled us to stand to one side to allow you to pass, grumpy woman).

But in order not to block the sidewalk, in order not to have one close to the traffic, I would have to have one in front and one behind me. In other words, I would have to let go their hands.

And this is better… why?

Piss off, grumpy lady.

(Did I say that to her? I did not. I said a cheery, “Thaaank you!”
Strangely, she didn’t answer.)

December 23, 2009 Posted by | health and safety, our adoring public, outings, Peeve me, the dark side | , , , | 4 Comments

Why not?

The tots are devouring their lunch. With four or five toddlers around the table, it’s a pretty common occurance that one person is not enamoured of the day’s culinary offering.

Noah, Gronk, Nissa and Emily love, love, love lentils. Tyler eats them stoically, but it’s plain they’re not a huge hit.

Emily, Gronk and Tyler are great with spicy things. The others, not so much.

Nissa, Tyler, Gronk and Emily adore green beans. Noah chews and chews and chews and chews and chews, hoping, I figure, that they will eventually magically dissolve without his actually having to swallow them. My suggestion that if he doesn’t like the taste of something, the trick is to swallow it quickly and get rid of it falls on deaf ears. Eventually he builds up enough saliva in there that it’s swallow or drown — spitting it out is NOT an option at Mary’s table — and it goes down.

I don’t often feed him beans…

William? He’s like Mikey on that old commercial. He hates everything. William has a weird relationship with food, though it is, in fact, making significant improvements lately.


Today, I’ve hit the jackpot. Four tots around the table, and they ALL (even William!!!) love the asparagus-feta canneloni they’ve been served. The helpings are going down with unfettered enthusiasm, and seconds have been requested all round the table — even by William! (Seconds for William is by way of a breakthrough. I take huge satisfaction in this, and, increasing my professional pleasure, so does William. He is beginning to see himself as a “good eater”. As I say, a breakthrough.)

They’re eating and chattering — and then, suddenly, they’re not. Each child is frozen in place.

“Do you hear that??” William demands, his posture alert, his eyes wide. Of course, this being William, it sounds more like “Goo you ee-yah gak?”, but, as I’ve said before, I’m getting better at interpreting William-speak.

“Oh! Oh! It’s the garbage truck!!” Noah practically vibrates in excitement.

“Wanna see! Wan’see gahbidge fuk!” Showing remarkable self-restraint, Nissa does NOT launch herself from the table. Instead, all eyes turn to me.

“Can we? Can we go?” Three sets of pleading eyes rivet themselves on me. (The fourth set, Gronk’s, are steadfastly focussed on his food. Garbage truck? Doesn’t even register when there’s food in view. A study in dietary contrasts are William and his brother.)

You know, lately I’ve been a little crochety. “No” has come to my lips far more readily than “yes”. I’ve been all about order and predictability and rules and standards and, here I confess my failings, “don’t bug me”. Maybe it’s not crochety so much as inert, but still… it results ina lot of ‘no’s’. It would be easy to say “No, we’re eating,” because The Rule is that you don’t leave the table as long as you want more. It would be easy to say ‘no’ because their request is an impulsive thing, and I’ve been sort of stuck-in-the-muddish lately, woefully anti-spontaneity. It would be easy to say ‘no’ because … that’s what I’ve been doing lately.

But suddenly — hooray for the return of the normal me — I thought, “but why not”? And really. Whyever not? So they go to the window for a minute or two before finishing their meal. This is a bad thing?

Do you not sometimes just look at yourself and wonder why you do what you do? Why have I been full of ‘no, no, no’ lately? Why resist the happy impulse to celebrate? What gain is there to me in refusing such an easy request? I give myself a mental shake and grin at their hopeful wee faces.



Three children thud off the benches and hit the ground running. Three eager bodies crowd into the living room window.

“There’s the garbage truck!”
“No, it’s the blue-box truck!”
“Oh, blue-box! YAY!”

The guys in the blue-box truck see their bouncing audience and give a cheery wave.

“The garbage guys WAVED at us!!!!!” William is in four-year-old boy heaven. Who needs celebrities when you have garbage guys? Heck, in the four-year-old universe, garbage guys ARE celebrities. And they WAVED at him!!!! Awash in wonder, he can scarcely take it in.

“Well, wave back, then!” I nod encouragement.

Six little hands (two each) flail in the air. “Hi, gargage mens! Hi, garbage guys! Hi, hi, hi!!!”

It’s less than a minute later before the truck roars off to the next house. Peace descends.

I grin, again. That was fun. Really. They’re just so cute, and they’re so enthusiastic, and now, they’re just so happy. And all I had to do was say ‘yes’ to allow for two solid minutes of purest joy.

“Okay, guys. You ready to finish your lunch now?”

Satiated with excitement, a much calmer group trots back to the table to readdress the canneloni and corn.

“Hey, Mary. Can we go see when the garbage truck comes, too?”

My response is immediate. “Sure. Why not?”

December 17, 2009 Posted by | Ottawa, our adoring public, the cuteness! | , , | 8 Comments

“Peekee boo!” Nissa pulls the coffee shop napkin away from her face, and giggles as the other children laugh in excitement. “Peekee boo!” She loves playing to the gallery, and she really loves making the others laugh. Depending on whether she uses her powers for good or evil, she’ll either be her future teachers’ delight, or the bane of their existence.

Right now, she’s delightful.

“Oh, they’re so sweet!” The elderly fellow leans over from the next table. His eyes sparkle as the children laugh again. “The expressions on their faces are so vibrant!” Much like his, I might add. His hair is white, his face wrinkled and the skin on his hands papery, but he radiates life and positivity. I warm to him immediately.

His equally delightful wife agrees. “That’s sure a lively little crew you have there, and so well-behaved! How old are they?”

I tap small heads as I identify them. “Emily is four, Noah is two and a half, Nissa is eighteen months, and the baby is eight months old.”

Her eyes widen. “Goodness! We didn’t even notice the one in the stroller!”

“I’ll bet you’re done now!” he chortles. And you know what? I join right in. I am done. No need to point out I’ve been “done” for sixteen years… I’ll take it as a compliment that 1) I look young enough to have an 8-month-old baby (!!!) and 2) I’m doing my job well enough that I can be mistaken for their mother, not a hired gun, and 3) they commented on the childrens’ excellent behaviour, which, unlike many women out there, I take as a direct tribute to my hard work.

The fellow drapes his napkin over his face, then whips it away.


The children shriek in glee, the wonderful couple chortle along with them. Faces light up around the room.

Some days? Some days I cannot believe I get paid to do this.

October 26, 2009 Posted by | our adoring public, outings | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Spring has Sprung in Ottawa

They sat like this for a good 25 minutes.
What rivets them so?


It’s the ice-smasher-boat!!


Otherwise known as the “AmphibEx” (amphibian excavator).

How do I know this?

A few years ago, a different group of tots was rivetted by the same spectacle, only this time some of the “workin-guys” were on shore. They admired the kids, and chatted about their work. The children were MESMERIZED.

Those big men!
That big machine!
The roaring and the cracking!
That big machine!
The whoosh of the water!
That big machine!
Those big chunks of ice!
And did we mention, THAT BIG MACHINE???!?!!!

(I mean, really. Does it get any better?)

One of the worker-dudes approached, hitching his jeans importantly. He has their undivided attention, and decides the time has come to impart some Words of Wisdom.

“Stay in school, kids, or you’ll end up driving one of those.”

Well. There goes five families’ hopes of their child’s post-secondary education…

April 2, 2009 Posted by | Ottawa, our adoring public, outings | , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

She’s so wise

Emma has taken three tots to the library. As they check out their books, Timmy wants to know,

“Are we going to the coffee shop, Emma?”

They know the patterns so well. First the library, then the coffee shop. Every time. But it never hurts to double-check!

“I don’t know. Do you guys want to go to the coffee shop?” Just for the fun of…

Timmy and Anna commence to bounce. “YEEEAH! YEEEEAH! YEEEAH!”


It’s not a big voice, it’s not angry or demanding, yet somehow it cuts through the clamour.


Timmy stops bouncing, near-panic in his eyes.

“Emma! Noah says he doesn’t want to go to the coffee shop!”

“It’s okay, Timmy. Noah is saying ‘no’ because he’s almost two years old. You can ignore him.”

Timmy wilts with relief. Mother-of-toddler in line behind them asks Emma if she needs any more babysitting clients.


March 16, 2009 Posted by | my kids, Noah, our adoring public, outings, power struggle, Timmy | 3 Comments

Without a tree to pee on

Earlier this summer, Emma took the tots on an outing. (So mum could have a morning off!! SUCH a lovely girl. I’m sure the ten dollars an hour had nothing to do with her enthusiasm. Well, not so very much.)

They were in a downtown park when Nigel announced an urgent need to pee. Of course. Because that is what toddlers do. That is particularly what little toddler boys will do when confronted with a whole bunch of trees.

I can understand. I cross the threshhold of the kitchen door, I’m hungry. Immediately and without any warning. I’ve learned not to go in there without a focussed purpose — a quick dart in, do the job, and get out — otherwise I find myself, vacantly, automatically, how-did-this-happen-anyway, staring into the fridge. It’s programmed into me, and it gets worse the older I get.

I know some women who are like that with shoe stores. Go into a mall, intending to make a quick trip into the drug store for a few stamps — JUST STAMPS! $5.00, tops! — pass a shoe store … and it’s all over.

Toddler males are like that with trees.

It’s a nice, largish downtown park: groomed grass, shrubbery amongst a rock garden on one side, a fountain surrounded by benches at one end, and, dotted all over the lawn, trees.

“Emma, I need to PEE!”

Of course, Emma tried to suggest that he didn’t need to pee right now, that there would be a perfectly good toilet available when they got to the museum, a whole three minutes away. Maybe five. But no. He had to pee RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE!!

And he is only three. It’s entirely possible. Even if the idea only came onto him through the power of subliminal tree suggestion, maybe the power of subliminal tree suggestion is strong enough to make him pee in another 90 seconds.

Emma balances the possible ramifications of an accident with no dry clothes on hand (what were we thinking??) and the subsequent bus trip home with a soggy, pee-stinking toddler vs the possible humiliation of a toddler taking a quick pee in a public park. Well, okay. So long as he’s discreet.

“Oh, all right. But be quick.”

It’s nearing lunch time. There are office workers with their coffee, some with their illicit cigarettes, there are elderly people sunning themselves on benches, there are joggers, there are a pile of construction workers preparing to eat. There are a lot of people. So of course, a little discretion would go a long way for poor Emma’s adolescent comfort levels.

Nigel races from one tree to another. “I’m going to pee on THIS one!”

Emma suggests that rather than a tree smack in the middle of the wide-open lawn, he choose one closer to the shrubbery at the side. Where the rummies hang out after dark. A little toddler-pee will probably improve the ambience over there…

But there is so much choice! Trees everywhere! How can a boy possibly choose?

“I’m going to pee on THIS one!”

Zip, dart, race.

“I’m going to pee on THIS one!”

Nigel’s hearty declarations have now caught the attention of the construction workers, all decked out in their grubby workin’-mens blue jeans and the yellow and orange vests with the reflective tape. They’re having lunch, coffee mugs and sandwiches set on a couple of benches. They chortle amongst themselves at the little guy, males sharing the pride of their shared manly-bits.

I have no doubt they’re checking out my daughter, too. A male bonding experience Nigel hasn’t yet attained.

Nigel races past them. “I’m going to pee on THIS one!”

“Nigel, will you just pick a stupid tree and get it over with, please?”

The chortles turn to outright laughter. The hottie is feisty, too. Better and better.

Perhaps drawn by all that fellow-manliness, or just the possibility of the attention of amiable adults, Nigel darts over to the guffawing group, and points to the tree nearest their food-bench.

“Okay, Emma. I’m going to pee on THIS one!”

Now the guys are killing themselves. This kid is a scream, he with his mini-manlybits and ready hosepipe. But hey, pee is pee. The worker-dude nearest Nigel looks down at his wee blond head.

“Not there you don’t, son.”

So he ran two metres over
dropped his drawers,
and peed.

In the very middle of the lawn,
on the grass,
not a tree in miles.

Emma thinks one of the guys may have snorted his pastrami-on-rye right out his nose.

September 9, 2008 Posted by | manners, Nigel, our adoring public, outings, potty tales | , , | 7 Comments

No Sharp Objects, or I May Just Burst with Pride

This morning there was no canned cat food. There was lots of kibble, but no wet stuff. Which is why I spent the first two hours of my morning tripping over cats. Hundreds of them. Technically, there are only two, but for the first couple hours this morning I’d have sworn there were at least three or four… hundred… in the kitchen, each and every one of them desperate to be fed, each and every one desperately hungry. Especially the tortoiseshell one, whose belly almost – but not quite – brushes the ground as she winds herself around my feet in a desperate attempt to kill me get fed before she collapses from starvation.

Our Outing this morning is decided. We will go to the vet, to collect the cat food. Because these animals don’t eat the cheap stuff from the grocer’s, nor even the middling stuff from the pet store. Oh, no. THEY eat the premium stuff from the veterinarian.


Good thing they’re not my cats, and even better I’m not paying for this. (They belong to my neighbours. I’m cat-sitting for a bit. Of a year. For, oh, six more months now, while their owners finish meandering through southeast Asia – they were in Laos when last heard – before moving on to Africa, and finally Europe. Must be nice, huh?)

No, I’m not being paid. But nor do I have to pay, either. So we load up with 48 cans of premium food ($95.00).

It is observant Anna who asks, “Go a coffee shop, Mary?” Observant some of the time, generally when her stomach is a factor.

Because, lo, the coffee shop is RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET from the vet’s. I’d forgotten that. But it is snack time, and we do need something to eat. We meander over. It is after we are arranged around the table with our food and drink that the hordes of middle-schoolers arrive. In waves. Each surge accompanied by a teacher.

The coffee shop, you see, is right across the street from a local JK – 8 school. The grade 7 and 8 children may, pending parental permission, leave the school ground at lunch and descend upon local commercial establishments. There are two coffee shops in spitting distance of the school, and various other stores of potential interest to 12- and 13-year-olds.

It seems that this year the school has decided to be proactive. Rather than wait till a student gets his silly self banned for shoplifting gumballs from the 7-11 and then reacting with an indignant and outraged assembly, banning the entire student body from the store for a month (which happened last year), the students are being taken around to these establishments so that a manager can come out and give them a Rules’n’Regs chat. It’s a good thought.

The young fellow at the Second Cup went sort of like this:

“Hi, my name is Fred and I’m the manager here. I just want you to know that you’re all welcome here at the Second Cup, but that we do have some ground rules.” He tells them a couple of things they mightn’t be expected to know: that they do indeed have to BUY something if they wish to sit in a chair for the lunch hour, and though it’s fine to come in and not buy something if you’re with a friend who is buying something, there can’t be SIX non-buyers for every buyer in the group. They’re 12 and 13. They mightn’t be aware of these nuances of commercial reality.

But they’re also told “There is to be no running or yelling. You need to talk softly enough so that other people don’t have to hear you if they don’t want to. Please remember not to throw things in the store. Please remember to pick up after yourselves. There is to be no fighting in the store.”

Obviously, the manager has seen these things before. He is not making up rules for the heckuvit. Are you finding it as sad as I am that kids of this age need to be told this? I’m not arguing that they do. I just think it’s sad.

When the fourth group comes through, it seems the manager has decided a lecture is boring and an object lesson is more effective.

“I’m Fred, the manager here, and I want to let you know that you’re all welcome in this Second Cup. There are some ground rules, however.

I want you to look at that table with the babies. See it?”

“Oh! Cuuuute!” The girls.
“Uh.” The boys.
The teacher grins at us.

“See how those babies are sitting in their chairs?”

“Uh, yeah.”

“Are they running around?”


“Are they shouting?”


“Are they throwing things, or fighting, or swearing, or bugging the other people?”


“Okay, then. What I’m asking you guys is EASY. When you come into this Second Cup, I want you to behave just as well as those babies. Do you think you can manage that?”

The group chortles, confident of the superiority of their advanced years. “Yeah.”

“Good. So remember: no running, no yelling, no throwing, no bugging the other people. And then everyone will be happy!”

And off the hordes surge. The manager strolls over and tosses a couple of 2fer coupons on the table.

“Here. I think you guys have earned these.”

Timmy looks up with his sparkling grin. “Dang-oo!”

Lordy, but I’m proud of these kids.

And myself.


September 4, 2007 Posted by | behavioural stuff, our adoring public, outings, socializing | 9 Comments

Just an Everyday Outing

What a lovely day!! After yesterday’s ferocious 31-degree temperatures plus melt-you-in-your-sandals humidity, which was followed by a mid-afternoon thunderstorm of such ferocity that poor Ki-woon woke shrieking in his bed, today’s 21 degrees with no humidity at all is nothing short of bliss.

Bliss, I tell you. And, since today is Emma’s birthday (FOURTEEN! My baby is fourteen. Though at 5’7 1/2 – and still growing – and as shapely as I didn’t achieve till I was seventeen, ‘baby’ is not the word. Unless, I suppose, it’s being uttered by a 15-year-old boy, but she knows enough to steer clear of males who call females ‘baby’. I hope.)

Where was I? Oh, yeah. Emma’s birthday necessitates a trip to the local greengrocer because Emma has requested a “fancy salad” with her birthday dinner. “Fancy” salad requires the addition of “raisins, sunflower seeds, crumbled feta cheese and that pretty curly red lettuce.” (Am I proud to have a child who sees salad as a potential birthday treat? Ooooh, yeah.)

(Of course, she’s taking it as a given that there will be cake. But still!)

So off to the Fresh Fruit Company which has the dual virtues of being close, about a km or km and a half, and having a good selection of organic produce.

I have four children with me: five-year-old George, 2.5-year-old Nigel, and two clocking in at 23ish months, Timmy and Emily. I have a four-seater stroller, a two-seater, and a small umbrella stroller. The four-seater is convenient, but it doesn’t fit through the store’s awkward front entry. The two-seater got soaked in yesterday’s rain because the tarp slipped its moorings and took off for parts unknown. So it’s down to the umbrella stroller. Four children, three of them under three, and one seat? Today will be an experiment, a walk on the wild side. Nigel, Timmy and Emily can take turns riding, their two buddies as outriggers.

They all do really well, and it’s such a grin to see them trotting along on their chubby little legs. Timmy, it turns out, loves walking. He loves to hang on, he loves to trot beside the stroller, and he especially loves waving his free hand in the wind, his fingers spread, soaking up sensation.

We toodle to the store. (“Timmy, please don’t touch that car. It’s not ours. If something isn’t ours, we don’t touch it.”) We toodle through the store. (“Timmy, those bananas aren’t ours. If it’s not ours, we don’t touch it.”) We buy our produce, plus some Swiss Cheese, and some yoghurt-covered raisins as further birthday treats. (“Timmy, put your hand down, please! The magazines are for other people. If it’s not ours, we don’t. touch. it.”) We toodle up Bank Street towards home. (“Ugh, Timmy. Don’t touch the fire hydrant.” George, with relish, “Yeah, Timmy, don’t touch tha-aat! Dogs do pee-pee all over fire hydrants!” True, but a little less glee would be in order.)

We pass the Tim Hortons on the corner. No True Canadian passes a Timmy’s without pausing…

Oh, why not? A little rest for their short and well-walked legs, and if they split a small box of Timbits, a little sugar kick for the walk home. No Timbits for Mary, who is watching the waistline. No caffeine kick for Mary, either: large decaf, two cream, no sugar. Can you stand the virtue?

People melt all over when Mary and the Mob toodle anywhere. The matching hats, the little faces, the chirpy voices, the toodling… People hold doors, people pull chairs aside, people smile and coo. Today, people also jump as we pass. A visible start, then a quick glance downward. First a grandfatherly type, who starts, then grins. Then a teenage boy, who jumps -“what the fu…?” – (quietly), then snorts. Finally a woman, who gives a gasp as she jumps, then giggles when she glances down.

Timmy the Hand is summarily strapped into the stroller.

George is gleeful once more. “Yeah, Timmy. If it’s not yours, you don’t touch it. Those were not your bums!” His titillated sniggering prurient snorting merry peal of innocent laughter carries us out the door.

July 12, 2007 Posted by | George, Mischief, my kids, Ottawa, our adoring public, outings, Timmy | 11 Comments

Word Games and Social Subversion

“Yes, there’s water there, Timmy. That’s the river. River. See the water in the river?”
“Good job. River. That water is a river.”
“Ribbuh. Wawa ribbuh.”
“Such a smart boy! That’s a river. All that water makes a river. See the river?”

(Ever notice how when you write a word a bunch of times, it starts to look weird? River, river, river… Now it looks like a French verb, or a job description. “River: one who rives.”)

(Ha! It is a French verb: 1 river Verb, transitive (a) to rivet; (Infml) ~ son clou à qn to shut sb up; être rivé à la télé to be glued to the TV. Heh. I’m so smart.)

(It is NOT a job description, however. In any language.)

When you’re out on a glorious day, with no agenda but to soak up the sun, the warmth and the sheer pleasure of moving unfettered by pounds of winter gear, conversation passes the time nicely.

“Bubble! Bubble! Bubble! Bubble! Bubble! Bubble!” (You may have noticed that Anna never says anything once when she can say it half a dozen times. You’d be right.)

“I don’t think those are bubbles you see, lovie. I think those are sparkles. Sparkles. The sun is shining on the water. The river is full of sparkles. Sparkles. Lovely sparkles.”

Undeflected by the possibility of alternate vocabulary, Anna bubbles on. “Bubble! Bubble! Bubble! Bubble! Bubble! Bu….”


“Well done, Timmy. Sparkles!”

Conversation passes time. So do silly word games. Emma has started a round of “Mountain from Molehill” with Lina, her (exceedingly bright) ten-year-old friend. In the game, an initial, and very mundane proposition is set forth: “I broke a nail”; “I lost my keys”; “I stubbed my toe.” Participants take turns proffering an ‘if-then’ sentence, turn by turn, each worse than the one before. The follow-up sentences careen wildly from mild inconvenience to major disaster, and, almost every time the game ends with someone’s death.

Fun, huh???

Today’s started with “I was changing a poopy diaper.” Auspicious beginning, that. “If I changed a poopy diaper, I might have to wear a gas mask.” “If I wear a gas mask, I might frighten the baby.” “If I frighten the baby, she might kick the poopy diaper.”

Within ten minutes and thirty or so exchanges, we had poop all over the house, shit-smeared toddlers, a broken leg, a wild dog, a house fire, a flood, and, inevitably, the demise of the poor person who started it all.

“Eeewwww!” Emma and Lina are chortling gaily at the noisome and tragic outcome.

Wahoo! Anna’s all over that. This is her very favourite word. Her very favourite. “Eeewww!”

Not to be left out of the hilarity, Timmy joins in. “Eeeeewww!” “EEEEEeewwwww!” And adds a variation. “Phphphbht!” (That’s a raspberry. Now you know how to spell one.) A very juicy raspberry. Spit sprays everywhere. Good thing the back of the seat in front of him protects Emily’s little head because her very pretty hat is not suitable for rainy days…

Four tots in four seats erupt into raspberries, squeals of disgust, and giggles.
Squeal, giggle, shriek, bounce.

A grandmotherly type strolls towards us.

“Oh, just look at all those happy little faces! Aren’t they sweet?”

Four sweet faces beam up at her and erupt together: “EEEEEeeewwww! PHPHPHBHBHBTTTT!” Spit sprays everywhere. (See how good I am at my job? Gracious socialization happens every day at Mary’s house. Every day.)

Grandma’s eyes widen for a startled second.

And then she blows a raspberry back. (This is just the kind of gramma I want to be when I grow up. Subversive.) Four tots scream with delight.

Gracious socialization? Good luck to me. These kids are a threat to the civilized world as we know it.

July 5, 2007 Posted by | eeewww, manners, Mischief, our adoring public, outings, the things they say! | 7 Comments

Nobody’s Perfect…

But seems I came close enough this week!

Someone thought my Good Mommies, Strong Mommies post warranted being noted as a Perfect Post.

Thanks to So-Called Supermom, and to all who read and enjoyed the post. Over 800 of you so far! Thanks for dropping by, thanks for all the comments, and I hope it’s helpful.

March 1, 2007 Posted by | commemoration, memes and quizzes, our adoring public | 8 Comments